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  • Writer's pictureRobert Gidley

The last long drive

Aug 23, 2022 (Tue)

After a couple (or four) days lounging around Whitehorse, enjoying our campsite and the occasional foray to the grocery store and the showers, it’s time to pack up and head out!

10:59 am

Which we manage to do with one minute to spare, but only because the site we’re at doesn’t have its own septic dump. We are slowly learning about the different levels of RV sites:

  • Lowest: 20 Amp only (can’t run A/C, which we don’t care about because we broke ours)

  • 20 Amp with water (nice for filling our water tanks, but since our shower drain is broken, we’re only filling up every two days)

  • 30 Amp with water

  • 30 Amp with water and sewer

  • Highest 50 Amp (which we can’t even use because Harvey is a 30 Amp creature) with water and sewer

The 50 Amp sites are used for those behemoth RVs—the ones as big as buses, where people don’t have to convert their beds back into couches and tables each morning. The list above also ranges from cheapest to most expensive (sometimes a $30 range). We are realizing that, really, the cheapest site works just fine.

There’s always a “community dump” site and we don’t mind our effluvia mixing with everybody else’s. In fact, we find it’s a bit easier because there’s usually no trees around the community dump and it’s easier to see everything. It does help if you can hold your breath for a while, though, as the community dumps get a bit aromatic.

Anyway, Harvey visits the community Wash Room and we’re on our way!

12:15 pm Emerald Lake, YT

We stop at a blue-green lake named, imaginatively enough, Emerald Lake. We can tell it’s important because not one, but two tour buses are stopped here disgorging passengers onto the roadside peering at the lake.

It really is strikingly blue and green and the interpretive signs assure us that it’s “natural” and caused by what’s called “marl,” and the color is caused by lots of dissolved calcium carbonate, which bounces the light around until just the blue and the green are left.

We gawk, take a few pictures, and leave before the tourist buses can get ahead of us (and slow us down!).

Don't worry about the color--it's natural!

12:40 pm Carcross Learning Centre

We spot a string of totems by the side of the road and pull over. We’ve learned that these signify a place where we can learn more about the people who were here for a long time. Even cooler—we’ve learned that these totems indicate clans and we can recognize a couple of the clans.

Our clue that culture is here!

This cultural center covers the Carcross/Tagish First Nation people. In the olden days, there weren’t strict boundaries and even “owning” land didn’t mean you could put up a fence and keep people out. It meant that you were responsible for keeping it neat and clean and prosperous. Other clans could use the land, but they asked first.

Anyway, this meant that there weren’t always strict differences between the people and who lived where. So we see a lot of familiar art and decoration.

Best of all: we see a finished canoe! Yesterday we saw what a canoe under construction looked like and today we get to see the finished product. It’s pretty cool, and we saw how the boards where people sit were made by putting holes in the side of the boat and using ropes to tie the boards in place. It even looks like they could be rigged for sailing (“We should try that!” says the insane half of our party).

Robert and a finished canoe—these things are big!

This is also a convenient place to donate the rest of our Canadian coins. As Americans, a pocketful of change (quarters usually) might add up to a couple of bucks. With $1 and $2 coins, a pocketful of Canadian coins can be $10 or $20. Once we cross the border, of course, they are worthless, so we figure it’s better to leave our little bit here where it can do some good.

1:00 pm Carcross, YT

The settlement of Carcross is the last major settlement before we reach the border. We debate about stopping here, especially since we just unloaded all our cash, but then we see a sign: “Authentic Sourdough Bakery” and that cinches the deal.

Gini loves sourdough bread and our taste buds are getting all excited about having some authentic Yukon Sourdough bread!

Alas, it seems that the Internet is not the only source of mis-information. Even highway billboards can lie. We manage to find the Chilkoot Trail Authentic Sourdough Bakery and it is every bit as closed as Gramma’s Kitchen was back in Pelly Crossing. There’s even a big padlock on the door to let you know that they are serious.

Is this part of the Gramma’s Kitchen chain?

Want to know about the rest of our Carcross experience?

  • “Let’s check out the Art House!” Empty as our hearts

  • “Ooh, a music store!” Empty as a drummer’s head

There’s a couple of other small open stores, but our hearts and wallets aren’t in it, so we mosey on down the road.

We saw a lot of impressive scenery.

2:30 (1:30) pm Alaska, U.S. of A.!

We are finally back in the land of proper speed limit signs. No longer do we have to figure our what 40 kph is really (24 mph) or how far 2 km is (1.2 miles). The speed limit signs do the conversions for us! Yay!

The border is up at White Pass, and we are not surprised that customs isn’t interested in having a manned station up there. Instead, the border crossing station is down the road a piece. But there’s a sign, so we stop and get the requisite picture.

Alaska welcomes Gini

Also, somehow Robert’s phone knows the time has changed (one hour earlier), but Gini’s doesn’t.

2:00 pm Customs Station

Driving the back roads sure has advantages (although the Klondike Highway isn’t exactly the back roads, there are not many cars). One of them is being the only car at the customs station.

The other is that the customs guy knows you’re not smuggling anything. When his “Anything to declare?” is met with Robert’s enthusiastic, “ T-shirts and we bought a painting and a bottle of wine and…” he just waves us through in a bored manner.

2:30 pm Skagway, AK

Here we are in Skagway, Alaska, where we will (on Saturday) catch a ferry boat for home.

This town is about 1,000 degrees different than any place else we’ve been. Sure, Dawson City had Diamond Gerties gambling hall and some tarted up store fronts. They also had a grocery store, and an ice cream shop that mostly served the people who lived there.

Skagway is 100% built around cruise ships. Two at a time loom over the town and discharge thousands of people when they stop. Robert saw a cruise ship schedule in the office of the RV park (which is owned by the city) and there are four or five cruise ships each day.

Gini and two cruise ships

By our calculation, that’s 10,000 to 20,000 people each day wandering into town and spending money. In a week, this town sees more people than live in the largest city in Yukon (Whitehorse, pop 30,000). Whew!

Even for Robert, who grew up in Hawaii and is no stranger to tourism and its impacts, this is a Tourist Town. At least there will be no lack of things to do…

Maps, maps maps

Well, only one map, but it shows where we went (in blue)

Where we were and now are

By the numbers

We’re done with the long stretches of driving.

Miles traveled so far: 3,264

Estimated Percentage of total road miles: 9%

Days so far: 31 days

31 days! That’s a whole month on the road.

Gini & Robert

Harvey Staff

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